As Brits debated Brexit this past spring, Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote a letter to media watchdog Ofcom lamenting that the conversation included mainly male voices. “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives," she said at the time. "Yet men are, as usual, pushing women out."
Fast forward six months. Brexit is still being debated, and men are still dominating the issue. The Independent kept a tally and found that during Monday's arguments in the Supreme Court case determining how the U.K.'s split from the European Union must be carried out, men spoke for over four hours, while women talked for merely a minute.
When a reporter for the paper tweeted out the statistic, some commenters replied that it was irrelevant. What difference does the gender of a lawyer make in a case where the Constitution is the deciding factor?
Even if female attorneys made the same points as men, optics matter. And it's clear that some members of the public need to become better acquainted with women in positions of power. Case in point: one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, investment manager Gina Miller, has exercised her legal right to challenge the government's authority to trigger Brexit. In return, she's received death and rape threats. Miller told the BBC that her role in the case had made her "apparently the most-hated woman in Britain."
Surely, some of that backlash is politically-charged rather than motivated by gender, but it's hard to imagine a man facing that same kind of intimidation.
U.K. PM Theresa May is being scrutinized again for her fashion sense. The culprit of this controversy is a $1,250 pair of leather trousers she wore in a photo shoot for The Sunday Times. Critics say they prove she's out of touch with regular Brits, while others argue that male politicians don't face similar scrutiny. In a new interview with the Financial Times, May said her bold fashion choices make her more approachable, specifically to other female politicians or political hopefuls. "A few years ago I got into a lift in the House of Commons with a young woman who happened to be wearing a nice pair of shoes," May told the FT, "and I said: ‘Oh, nice shoes.’ And she said she liked my shoes as well. And then she looked at me and said: ‘Your shoes got me into politics.’”
In the spotlight
Great British Bake-Off Champion Nadiya Hussain talked to the BBC about how her newfound fame has made her a public representative for Muslim British women. When she first appeared on the show, she assumed her headscarf, her clothing, and the way she looked would be "incidental," but the show ended up "highlight[ing] and almost magnif[ing]" those aspects of her presentation. She said, "It's an absolute honor to be able to be in this position and to say: 'Yes I am Muslim, I'm Bangladeshi and I'm British and I'm proud of all those things."
In the Middle East, where patriarchy generally rules, Kurdish society has long been an exception. Kurdish towns, for instance, have co-mayors—one man, one woman. But in Turkey, the government's crackdown after a failed coup attempt is effectively outlawing that institutionalized equality by arresting members of the political parties that promote it.
Harriet has company
Like its neighbor to the south, Canada will today pick a (non-Queen Elizabeth) woman to appear on its currency. It's whittled 461 eligible nominees down to five: Viola Desmond, E. Pauline Johnson, Elsie MacGill, Fanny Rosenfeld and Idola Saint-Jean. You can learn about them here. Fun Canada fact: it had intended to put five famous suffragettes on the $50 bill, but in 2011, the bill got an image of a glacier instead.
Nicaragua nixes machismo
In 2008, the Nicaraguan government announced new efforts to abolish the culture of machismo that was keeping women out of the workforce. Recently, 48% of adult women there worked, compared to 80% of men. Government programs such as state-run child care centers and seed capital for female-run startups seem to be making a difference.
Small business smackdown?
President-elect Donald Trump has added another woman to a prominent position in his administration. He's picked professional wrestling magnate and former Senate candidate Linda McMahon as his head of the Small Business Administration. McMahon is the co-founder and former CEO of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, and—if confirmed by the Senate—she would be a key player in Trump's effort to generate stronger job growth and roll back federal regulations.
Cute > capable
When reflecting on how Japan's workforce has evolved in her lifetime, Japan First Lady Akie Abe said last week, "Men’s thinking has not changed. [They] tend to prefer cute women over capable and hardworking women. So women try to appear to be the type that men like." Her husband has made a major push to get more women into management positions, but progress is slow. Last year 8.3% of those in section chief or higher positions in business were female, compared with 7.5% in 2014.
Finally facing the music
Today, South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament introduced an impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye, which set up a likely vote tomorrow on whether to suspend her powers over the influence-peddling scandal that's rocked the nation for weeks.
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--Former DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman on her new venture, Paradigm for Parity, which aims for gender parity in Corporate America's top jobs by 2030